How COVID-19 is specifically harder on working women 

Najifa Farhat:

Rawnak Jahan(alias), an engineer, and mother of two children has been working in full swing during the pandemic. Her office has not started physical operation yet considering the risk of the virus still prevalent. But lately, the home office has become hell for her, as her project closing time is approaching she has to work late hours almost regularly and besides this, doing household chores, cooking, and taking care of her two children is another full-time job. 

Representational Image(Collected)

In earlier days of the home office, everybody thought it’s going to be relaxing and less stressful considering service holders do not have to travel through hectic traffic, no pressure of getting ready and people are having more time at home. Well, this is obviously true, but the lockdown is really not being relaxing for the working women. 

For women, being the main homemaker of the home is always mandatory as per the gender role tradition of our country. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), globally, women perform 76.2% of total hours of unpaid care work, more than three times as much as men. In Asia and the Pacific, that figure rises to 80%.


Of course, there are exceptions and men also help at household works but in most cases, main responsibilities are still rested for women. And during this lockdown period, pressure from work and home has taken a toll over them. The time which was supposed to be relaxing, doing exactly the opposite. In fact, it has taken away the very little amount of stressed free personal time they had before. 


Before lockdown, despite having such a hectic routine, they had their home and work life separate, at least they could compartmentalize each work. Due to working from home, each responsibility is conflicting with one another. You might ask, why does it have to be so difficult now? They are just sitting 24 hours at home, right? 


No, they are definitely not! Starting the day from making breakfast; attending office on time from a remote computer – while being on a computer cooking lunch, schooling children, attending husband or other family members and after finishing work just when she was having a cup of tea, she remembered dinner isn’t cooked yet. Or maybe the boss has called for an emergency meeting or the deadline for work is approaching, so she might be bound to work after hours. Because losing a job at this time is shaking everybody and women are no exception in this category. Rather research done by The Australia Institute found that between March and April, the number of women employed fell 5.3 percent compared to 3.9 percent for men.


This is a normal scenario, but the situation is exponentially worse if there is a COVID or critical patient at home. For safety purposes, many urban residents have closed entries of domestic help inside the building, which are sort of the most essential need for a homemaker.  


Before, that may it be at home or office, women used to have some free time. But now juggling around all sorts of responsibilities has collided with their entire world. Since the significant portion of home duties rely on women, they are struggling to cope with such huge loads. This has become “new punishment” rather than a new normal. Living a life just to do work cannot be normal. No matter how much we focus on women empowerment and freedom, injustice and inequality start at households when it’s just expected from a woman to be the doer for 24/7. 


Apart from that, domestic abuses have rampant in this lockdown period all over the world. According to a local human rights organization Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF), at least 4,249 women and 456 children were subjected to domestic violence in 27 out of 64 districts of Bangladesh, with 1,672 women and 424 children facing violence for the first time in their lives – and this is the statistics of the month of April, just a month after the government imposed general holidays. The situation is definitely not at all better now, if not worse. 

For a long time in this region, women’s first and only job has been to be the primary caregiver of a family. But from generation to generation, women have been trying to break down this invisible shackle challenging the stereotyping roles of genders. Having a job outside the home has not only made them financially independent but also made them realize about self-care, growth, and having their own preferences. It takes a long time for a woman to build such a healthy environment around her amidst the patriarchal barriers, but seems like everything has come down to circle zero once again during this pandemic. 

For those who have helpful husbands and family members, the work is still tolerable but for others, it’s literally being nerve wrecking. A study conducted by the University of Essex highlighted that women are facing more mental health issues and feeling lonely and isolated more than men, during this crisis period. That is also happening, when women are specifically around their families. That means only one thing, women are not being comfortable enough and their families don’t feel the urge of taking care of her needs or simply just communicating with them except household needs. 

Family – a place that is supposed to be the closest and most comforting space for any person, turning the women of the families away. Consciously or unconsciously, women are not having the breathing space at their homes yet they are entitled to carry out all the duties. 

It’s tough to be sane and maintain a sound regular life with such mental and stress. Belittling one’s own mental health and peace can result in pushing women on the verge of destruction. It’s not just a woman’s responsibility to maintain household works. Economic turmoil, death, stuck in the home all the time – taking a toll on women just as on men. It’s really appreciated if men and children of the family can come forward and offer help by empathizing their stress and appreciating all the things women do on a regular basis for them.

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About the writer:

A young passionate journalist. Enthusiast about gender roles and issues; international conflicts and politics. Loves to read and write in the hope to influence the way people think and react.

“On my journey, my motto is to bring out stories of the people whose voices are unheard.”
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